Celtic attack the ball to win plaudits, if not points


Barcelona won 2-0 with a goal in each half.  The first, a sublime effort from the Sublime Master, the second a disputed penalty during Celtic’s best period of play.  The visitors forced one point-blank save from Craig Gordon, and struck the woodwork, but Celtic limited them to far fewer chances than on any previous visit since the current Celtic-Barcelona series of games began in 2004.

Attack the ball

On match day two, against Manchester City, the most striking aspect of Celtic’s play was their high pressing.  City were harried throughout.  Celtic did the same to Barcelona last night.  One, two, three and often four players arrived on the scene, high up the field, to close space and nick the ball.  This was a risky tactic but proved to be very effective (note: it didn’t work for Emilio down the left in the second half).

As a consequence, Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong regularly won possession in the midfield.  While you may have detected a drop in the level of our passing game in recent league outings, on a pristine surface last night, and under the greatest scrutiny, our passes were fast and accurate.

This high press combined with crisp passing meant we played the game a lot higher up-field against Barcelona than at any time since Larsson, Thompson and Sutton were doing their stuff.  The performance ended in defeat, so it will not be remembered as fondly as the game in 2012, but our ability to hold the ball, pass and move, was superior.

A few things to ponder:

Whatever was ‘wrong’ with Craig Gordon was fixed after the arrival of some competition.  His save from Suarez was exceptional – even better on TV replay than it looked at the game.

Jozo Simunovic and Erik Sviatchenko were unlocked by Messi once, but that aside, they didn’t miss a beat, and were always comfortable in possession.  The van Dijk-Denayer partnership has been the high water mark in modern times by which other Celtic central defensive pairings have been judged.  You’d be harsh to argue Jozo and Erik are performing below that level.

Honourable mention for Mikael Lustig too.  Neymar annoyed me with his approach to sportsmanship three years ago.  His behaviour last night, when he should have been red carded for two off-the-ball incidents, discredited his team.  It was no surprise he was substituted within minutes of the second incident.

Scott Brown bossed central midfield for parts of the game.  Stuart Armstrong’s dad probably didn’t know he had that level of performance in him.  He’s unrecognisable from the player who couldn’t get near the team last season.

In common with all of our advanced players, Tom Rogic’s opportunities to shine were fewer than our defensive players, but Barcelona pressed him more than any other Celtic player, and he came away with the ball more often than I expected.

Of the 14 Celtic players used last night, we got 45 minutes from Scott Sinclair and 90 from Moussa Dembele, neither of whom were material to our performance.  The rest were all at the club under Ronny Deila.  The transformation in Celtic, with largely the same players, is astonishing.  Store this experience away for the next time we’re underperforming and need to plan a recovery.

Kieran Tierney, Kolo Toure, Leigh Griffiths, Bir Bitton and Patrick Roberts could have easily made the starting line-up without any perceivable drop in standards.  There’s an unaccustomed depth to Celtic’s squad.

Lots going on right now with a Cup Final to look forward hard on the heels of a Champions League game but we’ll pick up on some strategic stuff tomorrow.  Also keen to get my hands on the calculated leaking of part of a store rental deal without the corresponding information.  If you attempt to drive a club into the sea, it’s financial options will leave it exposed to harsh terms.

This torchlight display on 67 minutes phenomenon is a special.  Respectful, understated and classy.  Well done.


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  1. TD67,



    The guy lauding our CEO in ‘your’ paper of choice is the President of Barcelona. Have a look at the case of Neymar, the admission of liability and the proposed criminal charges.



    If David Murray or Craig Whyte said the same in The Herald would you cite that?

  2. Weeminger,


    Going by what has transpired over the years,when every back has been bent to contortionist extremes to help the Huns,I would trust no one.Promises that work will be carried out in future,reports of makeshift repairs in the meantime,netting etc,just should not wash.The removal of a safety certificate would put the Huns out of business,not something the Glasgow council would do willingly.


    With 7,500 Celtic fans due there on Hogmanay,I would wish our board to demand to see the certificate,and inform the fans of its validity.If Glasgow council have issued a certificate,then they will be the people held accountable.Far too many accounts of unsafe roofing to be ignored

  3. CLOGHER CELT on 25TH NOVEMBER 2016 12:02 PM






    The guy lauding our CEO in ‘your’ paper of choice is the President of Barcelona. Have a look at the case of Neymar, the admission of liability and the proposed criminal charges.




    If David Murray or Craig Whyte said the same in The Herald would you cite that?



    pointless discussion as useual, you have your opinion, a got mine, going round in circles hogs the blog, I’m not interested, I just posted my thoughts being a board and PL, guy, you posted yours being anti board and PL, my experience in here is to leave it at opinions, before the clique come in, and I can’t be arsed with that lot, no thanks.

  4. Celtic fans?The hatred for PL on here with some knows no bounds.Praised by a guy who sits at the UEFA table with him,the president of Barca,saying that when PL speaks,others listen,is just something their closed minds wont compute.Was it not PL who fought the case for the Champions route to remain,therebye helping our chances of qualifying greatly.Teams seeded on their own merits,where we would become a pot 3 team,I think again supported and argued for by PL.


    No matter,nothing will change a closed mind.As TD says,the Barca president is guilty of nothing yet,but dont let that influence you.

  5. Saint Stivs says SACK THE BOARD on

    if you didnt allready know it, the gurn faced russ aboot lokk a likely confirms he is deluded at the 2nd rangers agm –







    Mark Warburton: This remains the biggest club in the country



    Warm applause for the manager as he takes to the stage and he wastes no time trying to keep the crowd onside:



    We will keep going forward and Europe and a challenge for the title will follow.


    This remains the biggest club in the country





    He fluffed his lines. When he said club,he meant car crash.



    Easy mistake to make over ibrox way…

  7. LMCBHOY on 25TH NOVEMBER 2016 11:45 AM


    Big J, Wee M,



    ‘Posted a few days ago that there is a contract out for safety netting in 3 of the stands, including Broomloan.’






    Without convincing evidence I’d be inclined to file that story along with the one about stealing water from the local church.

  8. TURKEYBHOY on 25TH NOVEMBER 2016 12:06 PM



    See my later reply to Greenpinata – it’s a new inspection we would need to ask for. Right now they’ll have a certificate that’s valid.



    Whether deals were done for it to be granted I couldn’t possibly say, but I suggest not. If that ever came to light, there would be criminal charges. At best anybody involved would never work in the field again.





    Bits of their stadium were being blown all over the shop last season.



    That should have led to remedial work as appropriate,and preventative maintenance in similar areas.



    Not the purchase of a roll of gaffer tape.

  10. garygillespieshamstring on

    I see they are claiming a “founders’ trail” around events of 1872.


    Surely they should have started a “rangers grave” group and a founders’ trail going back to events of 2012?

  11. 3.10 Newbury – Blaklion



    Nap (?) of the day…… Not one winner all season, surely the law of averages



    Best of luck to all



    Cheers GFTB

  12. Roy C @10:44 &10:46 I love Friday nights because of you , but to see the best ever Pogues song lie next to what must be the best ever Mr Celtic photo is just sublime. Thank you, Thank you, Thank You

  13. Would love to see him sign for us permanently but don’t see the point of a loan deal (unless it’s with an option to buy).




    CELTIC are putting together an ambitious loan deal for Everton midfielder James McCarthy, who they want to sign in the January transfer window.



    Herald Sport understands that Brendan Rodgers, manager of the Scottish champions, wants to bring the 26-year-old to Glasgow in a deal which would initially base the Republic of Ireland internationalist at Celtic Park for the remainder of this season.



    We can reveal that a permanent move could be secured next summer if Celtic, Everton and McCarthy himself can agree terms, however, the situation is also being monitored by Newcastle United, Sunderland and Stoke City who are also interested in the former Hamilton Academical player.



    Everton’s owners remain reluctant to sell the Glaswegian; however, McCarthy does not figure in the plans of manager Ronald Koeman, having played just two league games this season, and is desperate to get back playing regularly.



    The Merseyside club would have to pay the majority of the former Wigan star’s wages, believed to be close to £70,000 a week, which means if Celtic want to push through the move they would have to pay a loan fee, but with the £30m-plus the club will make out of their Champions League campaign they are in a strong financial position.



    And there could be an added cash bonus as Liverpool are reportedly ready to make a £30m bid for former defender Virgil van Dijk as the Parkhead club are due 15 per cent of the fee Southampton would receive if such a deal was to take place.



    Crystal Palace midfielder Jordan Mutch remains a target and Darlington Nagbe of MLS outfit Portland Timbers has visited the club and is expected to sign when the window opens for a fee of close to £2m.



    However, a successful chase of McCarthy would be seen by supporters as another big marker set down by the club in terms of the level of player they can attract.



    McCarthy established himself as a much-admired Premier League performer when he joined Wigan in 2009, and won the FA Cup before clinching his move to Everton, who beat a number of clubs to sign him for £12m.



    Up until this season, after Koeman took over from Robert Martinez, McCarthy has been a first-team regular, but it is clear he doesn’t fit into the Dutchman’s system at present.

  14. Have napped clic work twice this year. Unlucky at Stratford then pulled up. Fav on both occasions. Trainer unable to provide reason for bad run. Connections put it in a Mickey mouse race at Taunton on Thursday and it romps home at 12/1. Just as well I was watching out for it.



    Irving 2.15 @ Newcastle today.



    Cannae get beat.